Last month, an appellate court in Florida issued a written opinion affirming a lower court’s decision to enter summary judgment in favor of a motorcycle accident victim. While the court determined that the driver who caused the accident was individually liable for the plaintiff’s injuries, the court also held that the trust for which the at-fault driver was a trustee could not be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was the surviving spouse of a man who was driving his motorcycle eastbound in the slow lane of the Route 50 highway. The defendant, who was operating a flatbed truck, was facing northbound on a perpendicular street, preparing to make a left turn to head westbound on Route 50. As the defendant pulled out into the eastbound lanes of traffic, he cut off the motorcyclist, who collided with the front driver’s-side quarter-panel of the truck. The motorcyclist was seriously injured and taken to the hospital, where he later passed away.
The responding police officer surveyed the accident scene, finding that the motorcyclist tried to brake before colliding with the truck but was unable to come to a stop in time. The officer determined that the defendant was at fault and issued a citation for failing to yield to the motorcyclist.
As it turns out, the defendant was on his way back home from the hardware store, where he had picked up some piping to install a drain on his home. The defendant was the trustee of a trust that was for the benefit of his sister and two adult children. The defendant’s home was owned by the trust.
The plaintiff’s surviving spouse filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the defendant, also naming the trust. In a pretrial motion, the court granted the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment on the issue of the defendant’s personal liability, finding that no trial was necessary on that issue. Later, it was determined that the defendant was acting as an agent of the trust, meaning that the trust could also be held liable for the plaintiff’s loss.
On appeal, the defendant argued that the lower court was improper to grant summary judgment to the plaintiff on the issue of liability. The defendant explained that he should have been able to argue that the motorcyclist was at least partially at fault for the accident. However, the court concluded that there was no evidence on which the defendant could rely to make that argument, and the lower court’s decision was affirmed.
The defendant also argued that the trust should not be liable, since the at-fault driver was not acting as an agent of the trust at the time of the accident. On this issue, the appellate court agreed, reversing the lower court. Thus, as a result of the court’s opinion, the defendant will be held individually liable for the plaintiff’s loss, but the trust will not be liable.
Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Motorcycle Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Maryland motorcycle accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. In some cases, liability may be established without proceeding to trial, saving time and expense. However, accident victims should be prepared for all possible defenses. The dedicated attorneys at the Maryland personal injury law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have extensive experience handling motorcycle accident cases, including cases with complex legal issues and multiple defendants. To learn more, and to speak with an attorney about your case, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.
More Blog Posts:
Determining Fault in Maryland Motorcycle Accidents, Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog, published June 27, 2017.
Motorcycle Accidents Involving Government Employees, Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog, published June 6, 2017.